As if on cue, the season’s first spotting of a south-migrating gray whale was by two Dana Point whale watching charters off Beach Road in Capistrano Beach on Wednesday, November 24.
“We have a little competition every year to see who can guess when we’ll see the first gray whales,” said Donna College, who operates Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching. “It’s fun. Today was the day.”
Captain Steve Berkhalter, captain of Dana Wharf, first saw the whale at 11:15 a.m. swimming in shallow water and traveling south. Burkhalter described the 20-foot-long whale as “normally traveling and healthy-looking.”
“It’s super exciting,” Kales said. “Thanksgiving marks the start of gray whale season, which is why we coined the phrase ‘Grey Whale Friday’ to encourage people to go out on the water as a play on Black Friday, the nation’s biggest shopping day. The port’s Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari also participates in gray whale watching Fridays.
Each year, gray whales move from the Bering Sea in Alaska to the southern California coast in Baja’s lagoon on their annual winter migration, where they give birth and mate. They then move back north to Alaska with their calves – some traveling more than 12,000 miles during the migration process.
“They are out by Catalina and then head it out to the Headlands (a huge rock exit just before Dana Point Harbor) and continue their journey down the coast,” Kales said. Experts say that whales use the headlands as a navigation point.
Even though Burkhalter first saw snorkeling whales, it was a passenger aboard Captain Dave’s whale-watching boat who provided the tip for staying on the lookout, said Gisele Anderson, who with her husband Dave Anderson serves as part of the charter fleet. manages.
“A passenger on our boat told Captain Gary Brighouse that he had seen a gray whale from the window of his hotel in Laguna Beach on Wednesday morning,” Anderson said. “So, Captain Gary radioed Dave, who was on the water with a private charter, and told him. And everyone went out to find him.”
For Gisele Anderson, who, along with Kales, recently trademarked Dana Point as the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World and helped designate the city as the first Whale Heritage Site in North America, this It was confirmation of what he and the college had always known.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “To be able to get this whale early and a blue whale (seen out of the headlands on 20 November), it just continues to reinforce that we are really year round and that Dana Point is actually dolphins. And whale watching Capital of the World.”
A group of volunteers will soon gather at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center in Palos Verdes to count gray whales as they move both south and north.
Each year, the Los Angeles chapter of the American Cetacean Society uses volunteers for its Gray Whale Senses and Behavior Project, founded by marine biologist Alisa Shulman-Jenniger in January 1984. The volunteers will start their counting on December 1.
Because of the pandemic, there has been no count since March 20, 2020, Schulman-Jenniger said.